Do older men who are HIV positive have a responsibility to ensure condoms are worn with younger – more naive – partners? That’s what I wanted to know on this week’s episode of Cocktails and Confessions.
The good thing about running a blog alongside the podcast is that in the moment I often don’t formulate my argument as well as I could’ve, so in this article, we’ll explore the topic a bit further.
Due to a lack of education, which is compounded by remaining in the closet, lads from 16 – 20 can be quite naive when it comes to things like condomless sex and HIV, therefore if their partners are HIV+ there is some element of responsibility to them to either educate the younger guys, or ensure – 100% – that the infection is not transmitted.
Their guest on the World AIDS Day Special (better late than never), Phil Dzwonkiewicz is the current reigning Mr Gay England and HIV activist responded by saying that placing blame doesn’t really get us anywhere; which is very true. Although the question is less about who to blame and more about what people can be doing as individuals to improve relationships within the community, as well as help to end the stigma around and spread of HIV.
Given the fact that we are not taught by schools or by our parents the intricacies of gay sex and the diseases that accompany it, young men should at least be able to rely on the older gay community not to take advantage of that.
Dani believed this to be quite a “niche” issue, but it’s really not. Or at least it wasn’t, before prep. All of my friends will say the same thing, that when we were young and had just come out there wasn’t any [feelings of care] from older gay guys, not in our experience. That’s not to say we needed to be mollycoddled, but there is no ‘i’ in community. (Well, there is, but you get my drift).
Are HIV-positive men under any laws to tell people beforehand? No, and they shouldn’t be. However, if you’re going to be having sex with a guy who hasn’t had the chance to get acquainted with the facts of HIV and condomless sex, and hasn’t been out long enough to understand the unwritten rule that if someone initiates condomless sex they are either positive or on prep, then there is a moral obligation to ensure condoms are worn, or that they themselves are on prep.
It’s all well and good telling people to “look after themselves”, but I’d argue that in cases like these, selfishness is part of the problem that keeps HIV alive. Men favour bareback sex over facing the stigma of telling their partner or desensitized pleasures by wearing condoms. Obviously, stigma is a far larger issue which stems from the community and the government and the education system, but not wearing a condom in these cases – unless you’re certain you’re undetectable – is irresponsible.
Stigma is something that’s so widespread that addressing and impacting it directly as an individual is wildly difficult, but extending a bit of care to the men we get into bed with is something everyone can do that makes a difference.
Yes, everybody has a duty to take care of themselves, but is there anything wrong with taking care of other people too? Especially as men who have lived the experience of being diagnosed and all of the trauma and stigma that can potentially bring. Stop passing on your own negative experiences and lead by example; and that goes for everyone, not just older gay men. Just because someone hurt you doesn’t mean you allow yourself to hurt other people too; so it’s just as much about accepting responsibility for your own safety as it is about accepting responsibility for the repercussions of your actions.
We don’t go and get tested regularly just to keep ourselves safe, we do it to prevent other people from contracting infections too.
As mentioned, it’s very important to be proactive with your own safety, as – evidently – you can’t rely on anybody else to do that for you. However, until gay sex education is more prevalent, there’s no reason we can’t look out for one another as well as ourselves.
Check the full discussion below: